There are several misconceptions circulating about the scope of Bill 10 and, therefore, I feel it prudent to provide some clarification.
Bill 10 made amendments to the Public Health Act that clarify the ability of government ministers to make legislative changes, through Ministerial Orders, once a public health emergency has been declared. The change allows a Minister to act quickly during a public health emergency, especially in the case of a Legislature shutdown.
To be clear, Bill 10 did not create new powers for politicians to implement laws of their own choosing during a public health emergency. The Public Health Act specifies the parameters of government action, and that fact has not changed. Bill 10 did, however, clarify the ambiguous language in the Public Health Act and this is a good thing.
When a health emergency was declared by the former government to address the flooding in Fort McMurray, for instance, Ministers were compelled to exercise their own discretion interpreting segments of the act. Our government sought to reduce such confusion.
Ministerial changes are completed in consultation with municipalities, public health officials, and the Emergency Cabinet Committee to ensure that all measures are in the best interest of Albertans. Importantly, these ministerial orders expire at 90 days or the end of the public health emergency, whichever comes first. In other words, these public health orders are temporary.
In preparing Bill 10, our UCP Government consulted with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the Rural Municipalities Association, the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary.
All regulations pursuant to the implementation of emergency orders are posted on the Alberta COVID-19 website to ensure transparency. A full list can be found at; https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-orders-and-legislation.aspx.
Additionally, Bill 10 made changes to the Public Health Act to strengthen government’s ability to protect the health and safety of Albertans. Examples include increasing fines for non-compliance of public health orders and the allowance of police escorts for public health officials. Health officials who feel unsafe attending an inspection alone for instance, may ask police to accompany them.
Bill 10 does not afford police the right to enter a person’s home to enforce mandatory vaccinations, as has been inaccurately reported. The UCP believes in the rights and freedoms of individuals and does not support mandatory vaccination.
The Public Health Act was created decades ago and has been amended many times over the years. It is my belief that COVID-19 shone a light on powers that previously existed in the PHA, those of which have been wrongly attributed to Bill 10.
The Premier has indicated that a review of the Public Health Act would be appropriate considering the COVID-19 crisis is the first time the Act has been tested to this extent. Lessons are being learned over the course of this pandemic and a review will take place after the crisis has passed. Naturally, public participation would be encouraged in the consultation process.
As we enter the relaunch phase of this pandemic, I want to reassure constituents that the decisions our UCP Government make in the fight against COVID-19 are not taken lightly. We continue to put measures in place that reflect the best medical advice of public health officials, under the expertise of Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
In order to avoid a second wave of the virus, we encourage constituents to maintain social distancing and be safe during relaunch. We thank Albertans for their resilience and understanding through this unpresented time.